Final Month in Thailand for the season. I returned from the Chiang Mai bike trip and picked up a rental car at the airport when I flew in. Grabbed Amy and the dog and we started heading south. The first bit of excitement was this huge millipede I saw on the road. He was about 8 inches long. I scooped him up and took him back to the side of the road. Some guy gave me a thumbs up cause I am an amazing Farang. Later I thought how pissed that bug was because he spent all day getting halfway across the road and I came along and instead of accelerating his journey I just took him back to the side he came from. I can still hear him shouting at me, “No! No! Stop. Goddamn Farang”
Our first stop on the trip down to Krabi was in the coastal area of Chumphon. We found a place along an intercoastal waterway within walking distance of the ocean. When we arrived the proprietor welcomed us and showed us our little treehouse setup. Then his wife came by and gave us money back as she thought we had 2 dogs. That was funny as I never even paid for the first dog, but who am I to question?
We dropped our stuff off and headed to the beach with Max.
Some cool abandoned boats outside our place along the river.
The neighbor had a variety of animals on his property, including a couple of male peacocks who were trying to mate with some chickens.
That night there was a knock on the door and the owner apologized but needed the money back his wife gave me earlier, and then he also needed money for our dog. It seemed like a shakedown at first, but an honest mistake. It turned out he confused us for another couple who had just arrived with 2 dogs. Another white guy with a Thai girlfriend. Not that uncommon here. He had also given us the wrong room, but even though our room was smaller and fewer amenities I was not eager to pack up, so that is where the conversation ended.
The next morning I walked to the beach solo still in my hospital scrubs I sometimes wear to bed. Everywhere I went people were bowing and treating me like a celebrated local doctor coming to save the people of the town. I need to wear these scrubs all the time. It works much better than wearing shorts and flip-flops and being scowled at as a Westerner engaging in the Sex trade.
There was a 5 story cement building going up next to our place and we asked about its intended function. They said most of it would be used to attract swallows in order to harvest their nests for Bird’s Nest Soup. They would use music to lure them in and would not know if it was successful or realize a break even for 5 years. They said this is the 4th one they are building in the area with the others still in the initial stages. Sounds stressful.
Our next stop was the outskirts of Khao Sok National Park. It was probably a mistake to go here. This is a beautiful place, but you really need a few days as the centerpiece of the lake is not something you can explore easily. We only were there overnight so just stayed at the tourist jumping-off point.
Our lodging was not ready when we arrived, so we walked to lunch. It was incredibly hot. Once checked in we had trouble with the Internet and shortly after Max herniated a reoccurring disc issue in his neck. We were able to take a short nature walk to see some monkeys. I am not bashing the area, as I would like to return and stay in one of the floating resorts on the lake.
We had a great breakfast in the morning in one of treehouses and then we were off to Krabi on our slow roll
The driving in Thailand as we all know is crazy. About 2 hours outside of Bangkok things get a little more orderly. It ends up being 4 lane road. With one lane for passing and the other a complete shit show of an “other” category. I really wanted to just sit in the slow lane all the way, but you can’t as it is a kaleidoscope of misfit toys. People on bikes, pickups filled 20 ft high with anything and everything, dogs, etc. Not to mention the Thai way of turning onto a street. Turn first, look second.
Here is a perfect example. Below is a video and some pictures of what seems to be normal in Thailand, but if seen in any other country would be absolutely crazy
It is my understanding that they train these fellas to climb the trees and bring down coconuts. I saw that some companies are refusing to buy the fruit from Thailand because of this practice. The jury is still out for me as these monkeys actually look like they are having fun, but yes with short leashes their sphere of influence and exploration is severely limited.
We checked into Vacation Village in Krabi and ran into a little SNAFU. I am so used to not telling people I have a dog, and just smuggling them in that I forget that when you are trying to go legit I guess you have to inform them as they have rooms only for dog guests. I failed to do that after booking online. I plead ignorance as no one really told me. So when we showed up with Max, they informed us that our room was not dog-friendly. After a bunch of paper shuffling they told us that there was a room but it was an upgrade and costs more. Here is where we made our tragic mistake. We failed to go see the room first. I said before, these Thai people are sneaky. We got put in a room with a view of a wall that was outdated and in suspect condition, even for me. Amy spent the next 2 days getting us into another room for the remainder of the week. She finally succeeded, and they wanted another “upgrade” charge! Amy was like, “I want money back from you for the last upgrade!”
Since we were only 20 ft from the ocean, the transition from the salt water, to the pool was seamless and I repeated process throughout the day. We walked the ocean front avenue and stopped in to talk with a SCUBA outfitter, arranging charter for future date.
We tried to find a spot for lunch. Since this place was full of various tourists, each restaurant was attempting to cater to all palates. They all advertised Indian, Italian, American, and Thai. We stopped at a place with a good view of the beach.
We made the mistake of looking at the pictures and assume they were representative of the actual food they were selling. We ordered tuna steak salad and pizza to share. We got a piece of flat bread with a bowl of tunafish out of a can with a cut up boiled potato.
We walked down the other way later in the evening to have dinner at the Fisherman restaurant and caught a nice sunset with our feet in the sand
The next day we walked to the end of the beach and followed a suspect path up over some rocks to the neighboring beach. We were suddenly assaulted by tons of monkeys. I mean these guys were on a mission. It felt like they were the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland scurrying around with no time to talk.
It was one of those amazing experiences you wish to hold on to. I later learned that the trail is called the Monkey Trail, for good reason.
When we got to the next beach, I was hoping to continue on to Railay Beach, the postcard-worthy destination, but there was no way around the next rock wall. This was impressive for one reason as there were a few resorts in this little nook we stumbled upon and all materials for construction and maintanence had to be brought in by boat. I could have swam around the outcropping of rocks to Railay but that would have been a 1 hour adventure and Amy would not be able to make it. I am glad she was with me because I probably would have died in the process. We ended up catching a a longboat around the bend.
From there we walked along to a secluded beach, that was anything but, but along the way we saw a rock climbing class and even a rope ascent that I tackled on my own to get some amazing views back towards Railay.
This all culminated in a cave filled with dildos
We took a long boat back to our place at Ao Nang Beach. It was only 200 Baht to get back, but it was 800 to get over to Railay. I can only surmise that this quickly had to become regulated by local government because tourist were kept stranded over at Railay at the mercy of the price gouging tactics of the boatmen.
The next morning we met the shuttle at 8am outside the resort. We were whisked away to a dock for the Fast Manta
The plan was to head out to local island and while Amy was snorkeling I would SCUBA. I have not actually ever scuba dived in open water. I took the training class during covid in Florida. My “Open Water” was actually performed in a spring in the middle of the state. There were a lot of trials and tribulations with equalizing during tht episode. Couple with the fact that it was 3 years ago, left me a bit nervous.
I paid an extra fee to have a refresher. Let me tell you about this refresher. Up to this point everyone was getting their gear on and getting ready, checking their tanks and such. I kinda just did my version of Jazz hands cause I did not remember these steps nor did I trust myself. “Um, can someone strap this oxygen tank to me and kick me overboard with enough weight to sink me?” We are no bobbing in the water. The guide, or whatever you call him, tells the other 2, “You go explore I am going to spend 5 minutes with Darren on refresher”. 5 minutes….ummm ok. So we spend a while adding more weight until we can sink my fat ass, then just like in Florida, he does some skill, as I watch and then at the end he points to me to duplicate. Wait, what? Even though I know I am supposed to repeat what he does I still just watch him with fascination and when it is my turn I just am like, “I have no clue what you want from me” I give him some razzle dazzle and we have to go up to the surface to discuss as the navy Seal sign language is lost on me. We try it once more and I struggle through 3 exercises and he said, “ok lets go!” I think, that was not much of a refresher, but oh fell, I probably would have handled it about the same if I were them. Next thing I know we are at 70 ft down and I am desperately trying not to think about the fact that we are 70ft down
There is not much alive around these parts. Some major coral bleaching events due to rising ocen temperatures have left this area like a wasteland. Honestly it was one of the most depressing feelings of my life. I remembered back to when I was a kid snorkeling in the Bahamas with my family and how the ocean was alive. I mean it really looked like the Disney movie, “Finding Nemo” Now, it was anything but. I don’t have any faith that humans will fix this situation. So, I now had to seek out the last places to Scuba before they are gone like the rainforests and the glaciers. My dive mate said he was in Australia diving at The Great Barrier Reef last month and it was just as dead. I did get to see some anemones with clown fish swimming about. I moved closer to investigate and the fish would swim out to greet me. When I was back on the boat I announced how cool it was that the little guys were coming to say hello. I was then informed that they were not saying hello, but trying to get me to go away. I refused to believe that. Once back in the boat I heard the motor fire up and we started moving. Amy was not in the boat. I had this “Open Water” panic moment and blurted out, “Amy is not in the boat! Amy is not here wait!” Someone came over and said, we were just circling boat to turn around to make it easier to pick them up. I looked over the side and I see her bobbing up and down as the only one with a life preserver and wetsuit on. At that point I was not sure if I was more embarrassed for yelling out or cause she was with me.
We did 2 dives. I told Amy that I was in survival mode. I was not looking around enjoying myself. I was just swimming right in the instructors hip pocket like a remora on a shark. I just sat there staring up at him, ready at any moment with my “ok” sign or the exact numbers on air left in my tank. I did enjoy enough to sign up for the next day’s trip to Phi Phi islands where they promised improved wildlife.
The next day I meet the shuttle and was off alone this time, as no snorkeling option. We were to make 2 dives at Phi Phi. We would basically circle the reefs surrounding 2 small islands
There was definetly more to see. In fact I saw a black tipped reef shark as soon as we went under. I also got up and close with a Morey Eel, some Sea Snakes and the highlight being a large octopus. The instructor was able to coax him out of a cave and interact a bit before we had to surface. Speaking of surfacing, we had quite the experience. As we were ascending, I heard a loud noise and looked up to see a boat 10 feet above me with prop spinning. One girl with me could not slow her ascent and the guide had to grab her by the ankle to keep her down. It was a very close call. Once we safely surfaced our team was not at all pleased with this other boat. It was a local dive shop and after seeing that disregard for recognizing our dive bouy, I vowed to not take the cheap Scuba tour no matter how attractive the price. No, not the ship below.
On the way back we stopped at Maya Bay. This is the island made famous in Leo’s movie, “The Beach” It actually has been closed for 4 years to allow the marine population to rebound. Now it was open and the beach was crowded.
Like a lot of places in a lot of various circumstances, the people hear have a hard time seeing the big picture. “What are you talking about, we have to stop fishing now or we wont have any fish in 5 years?” or, “we have to stop the dive tours that our bringing in money or the whole industry will crash in 3 years?” I understand how hard a pill to swallow this is when you are living hand to mouth, which is why the government needs to provide assistance. It took a while but they were able to transition most of the farmers in the north from growing Opium to coffee and tea.
Anyway, a good dive day, still a lot of dead coral, but also some beautiful sites.
The following day we did a little kayak trip at a local spring
The remainder of our days were spent lounging by the pool or beach and eating seafood in the evening while watching the sunset
I was floored by the amount of Instagrammers on the beach. I mean 80% of the people were taking selfies or using tripods to take pictures and videos. Those not using tripods were subjecting other friends to do countless takes of them walking to/away from the camera with an elaborate twirl of the sundress. It just felt surreal. Like I was watching society change in front of my eyes, and I did not know where it would lead. In 10 years would no one be actually traveling and just doing virtual reality vacations. It did not seem like people were here for the experience, but rather to document it…..says the guy writing the blog.
This was an interesting interaction I thought
Our final night was spent hanging with the ladyboys of Krabi. Always an engaging bunch, which we felt sorry for because of all the ridicule and rejection they must experience as it was more than just an act for them.
Our trip was done. All that was left was to brave the roads back to Bangkok and fly back to the US. I look forward to the cool temperatures of home and countless trips I have planned for the not-so-distant future. I enjoyed the 4 months. It was tough to stay put in one spot, but it showed me what opens up to those that engage in “slow travel” The people of Thailand, though sneaky and clever, are the friendliest group I have met. I thank you all for your patience and kindness. Khàawp Khun Krab.
Until Next Time,